A growing numbers of shoppers feel less of a need to touch and try on clothing prior to purchase, according to a new survey that looks at consumer apparel shopping behaviors and trends.
The amount of consumers who claim to shop frequently (at least once weekly) or regularly (once monthly at minimum) jumped from 15.9 percent in 2017 to 23.6 percent last year, according to the 2019 U.S. Forecast on Apparel Shopping Trends, signaling consumers’ growing comfort with the experience of purchasing clothes without modeling it first. CPC Strategy, now part of Elite SEM, fielded the survey.
While people are buying more clothing online than ever before, they’re focusing their spending on one particular category: casual wear—which speaks, perhaps, to the continuing casualization of the consumer wardrobe. Nearly 60 percent said they’d purchased from this category at least once in the prior six months, significantly outpacing any other apparel sub vertical. Even perennially popular activewear trailed at just 31.5 percent, while outerwear lured 26.3 percent of spenders.
Younger consumers were more likely to purchase in these categories, CPC Strategy found in the survey of 2,000 consumers ages 18 to 65. Gen Zers aged 18 to 24 years old showed higher buying rates in casual apparel (70 percent), activewear (35 percent) and outwear (30.9 percent).
Given where they are in life, millennials were found to spend more on baby clothing and work attire than other demographics. While 15.1 percent of all shoppers had purchased kids’ apparel in the previous half year, that figure jumps to 29.5 percent when looking just at the 25 to 34-year-old generational cohort. Another 26.5 percent of millennials invested in their professional wardrobe, ahead of the 18 percent of all age groups shopping for job-appropriate duds.
In light of the recent news that Amazon is the top choice for apparel shopping in the U.S., it comes as little surprise that 50.7 percent of survey takers said they’d bought some of their clothing on Amazon, 16.7 percent more than those purchasing from Walmart. Another 24.6 percent like to get their apparel directly from brand websites. Preference for shopping destinations diverges between young and older consumers, according to CPC Strategy. Gen Z (63.4 percent) and millennials (57 percent) were found to favor Amazon more highly, while shoppers above those age ranges tended to give more of their wallet share to Target and Walmart.
However, Walmart’s investments in launching its own new fashion brands, plus direct-to-consumer digitally native brands like plus-size fashion label Eloquii, Bonobos, and lingerie purveyor Bare Essentials could help attract more buyers from the millennial cohort, and from Gen Z—just 18.6 percent of whom admitted to buying clothing from the world’s largest retailer.
Asked what they most like about the apparel e-commerce sites they shopped, Gen Z and millennials cited convenience, cheap prices and speedy complimentary shipping as the top reasons they choose to spend via certain websites—all boxes that Amazon checks off tidily via free shipping, helpful customer reviews and other useful on-site features.
There’s evidence, though, that a great direct-to-consumer brand experience will win with young shoppers. Twelve percent more Gen Zers than all cohorts reported shopping on brand-owned sites, CPC Strategy found, a compelling stat in light of data indicating that people spend more when purchasing directly from a brand than they do on retailers that aggregate multiple labels.
With their higher affinity for technology and smartphones, more people aged 18 to 34 years old shop for clothing with their mobile (53 percent), ahead of the 42 percent of all shoppers who turn to their phones when looking for apparel. Notably, 44.7 percent of total e-commerce sales in the U.S. are expected to come through mobile this year, per data from Statista.
“People are becoming more comfortable with shopping on mobile,” Josh Brisco, director of CPC Strategy, said. “Frictionless checkouts, larger screens and investments in mobile-friendly website experiences are powering this trend.”
Lewis Brannon, senior retail search manager for CPC Strategy, added, “Mobile traffic continues to increase year-over-year, and people are using their mobile device to buy even more. Brands and retailers that can engage their target audience throughout the buyer’s journey using campaigns optimized for mobile targeting will see the most growth.”
CPC Strategy said desktop (63.1 percent) remains the device of choice for all apparel shoppers, and just 2.6 percent use a voice-activated system to buy clothing.
People might love brands for certain parts of their wardrobe but when it comes to their casual clothes, many are open to experimenting with private labels. Nearly half (47.4 percent) would consider purchasing casual items from one of Amazon’s 60-plus own brands or similar store-exclusive labels, the report said. Another 27.6 percent would entertain the thought of buying off-brand activewear.
“New brands in these verticals can take advantage of a shoppers’ willingness to consider unknown or off-brand casual, active and outerwear,” the report said. “The catch is that they must compete with the pricing, reviews and advertising placements of Amazon’s private labeled brands.”